Reunion of first Little League team scheduled

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 3, 1999

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / April 3, 1999

LAPLACE – June 4, 1952 was a historical date in the sports history of St.

John the Baptist Parish.

It was on that date that the first public organized Little League games in the parish were played. A capacity crowd was on hand at ReserveCommunity Club Park to watch the Reserve Yanks defeat the LaPlace Cards, 7-0, and the Reserve Cubs beat the Reserve Giants, 11-7, in Junior Sugar Belt League play.

Prior to the games, a ceremony was held with all the players in the league being introduced. Among those attending were Dr. Louis Legett, chairmanof the New Orleans Recreation Depart-ment’s baseball program; Hannon Barre, president of the parish police jury; and Joe Keller, commissioner of the league.

Forty-seven years later, the players who took part in those historical games will be reunited Saturday, April 10, at the Holiday Inn in LaPlace.

Pregame begins at 6:30 p.m. with dinner being served at 7:15 p.m.Following dinner, the players will have the opportunity to take pictures and renew acquaintances.

The Junior Sugar Belt League was organized in 1952 by Roland Toups, the plant manager at Godchaux Sugars. At the time, the Shell plant had aprivate league but there was not a public league in the parish. Toups waselected president of the league with A.J. Ordoyne serving as thesecretary-treasurer, Henry Adolph as the announcer and J.A. Cambre wasresponsible for the school board.

The league consisted of six teams – the Reserve Yanks, Reserve Cubs, Reserve Giants, Reserve Reds, Garyville Braves and LaPlace Cards. Playersages 11-14 were eligible to play. Eligibility rules limited the number of13 and 14-year-olds on each team. The league had a 45-game schedulewith games played on Wednesday and Friday nights at the Reserve Community Club Park.

The Yankees swept the Cards in a two-game playoff to capture the title and finish the season undefeated. The Junior Sugar Belt League lastedthree years before becoming a casualty of the Godchaux strike.

Mack Reine, who played for the Cards, said local players could only play sand lot ball before Toups came in.

“It gave us an opportunity to learn to play ball, Reine said. “It was a goodopportunity to play organized ball that we wouldn’t have had if Mr. Toupshadn’t came in.”Harold Keller, who managed the Reserve Reds and whose father was the league’s official scorer, helped organized the reunion with the help of a committee. Keller said players from as far away as Texas and Florida havebeen invited. Keller and the organizers used the pictures of the initialteams published in L’Observateur to contact the players and any player who has not been contacted and would like to attend can contact Keller at 652-8477.

“I’m looking forward to it with anticipation,” Sheldon Vice, a member of the Reserve Reds, said. “Seeing childhood friends and former players. Itshould be a fun-filled evening.”Allen Chapman, who still has the jersey he wore as a member of the Garyville Braves, is also looking forward to it.

“I think it’s going to be great,” Chapman said. “Seeing guys I haven’t seenin 40 years. It’s something new and everybody is enthused about it. I’mcertainly looking forward to it.”

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